This volume in our International Pop Underground series of 7” 45 rpm records features The Microphones. The Microphones live here in Olympia, Wash., but are at home in an untamed wilderness that they find to be comforting rather than savage; Homey rather than alienating. The Microphones use the studio to the fullest, and along with a battery of friends lending instruments and voices. But the solitary voice that sings “Lanterns” is warning that there is danger in the souls of us all. This song weeps and cries out through a loping beat. Those already starving for another dose of Microphones magic will find great satisfaction in this hearty chunk. This precedes the Microphones singles compilation album Song Islands (KLP125).
“Imagine waking up real early one morning to see the sun bristling against thunder clouds. Imagine sitting in your bedroom and writing a masterpiece about that sun. Because the rain has dried up for once. Because it makes you feel better to have done something with your morning. Because you think for just that moment that all we can count on in this world is that sun spiriting away those dark clouds. Your masterpiece is a song, a long one full of channel-hopping drums, strummed guitar and little noises that sound like rattles. It’s your own sort of roots music.
“If you’re Phil Elvrum, this is what you do. And as a singer, guitarist, drummer, studio whiz, screamer, heavy breather, and bedroom tape head who records under the name the Microphones, he can’t stop.
“So he tinkers some more. He stretches the tune out like taffy, going back and forth on those stereo channels, now with the guitars. By the end of it, he makes the cymbals sound like waves of feedback, crashing against each other, crashing through the mix. It’s a neat trick – putting diamonds back into the rough, putting that sun back behind those clouds.
“It’s simple and bittersweet stuff, nylon-stringed operas for those who like their Beck without beats, their piano twitchy and wrong-sounding like Thelonious’, their IDM without computers, their folk songs drained of white-boy sap. These are songs that stretch out and yawn, burp, shiver, go back to sleep, wake again wide-eyed and brittle, and saunter hands-in-pockets alone at 2AM.” - Jason Cherkis, Washington City Paper